Every summer, Zoo Check hears from tourists approached by photographers offering to take their photograph with animals ranging from lion cubs and monkeys, to bears and even alligators.
A popular souvenir in many resorts around the world, the use of wild animals for tourists’ photos can have a serious impact on the welfare of the animals involved. Repeated handling by humans is very stressful to wild animals, and in most cases the animal will have been removed from its mother at a very early age. Their future welfare is often uncertain, and when they are no longer charismatic or easy to handle, these animals often end up in slum zoos, circuses or even being killed.
Potentially dangerous animals such as lion cubs are routinely drugged, and have claws and teeth removed to protect human participants. Animals can even have their mouths wired shut and be chained so tightly they can barely move. Despite these precautions, there are considerable risks to people. In 2008 a young girl was tragically killed by a tiger she was being photographed with in China. It is thought the animal was startled by the camera’s flash. Participants are also at risk of contracting many serious diseases when handling wild animals.
Born Free urges tour operators to ensure customers are aware of the issues surrounding these ‘souvenirs’. To protect both the health and safety of customers and the welfare of captive wild animals, please do not to promote or encourage this use of wild animals. Remain vigilant and if you witness such wild animal exploitation in resorts, hotels or restaurants please report it to Born Free.